Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
• Provide opportunity for trainees to reflect upon their awareness of their environment and observation skills in a social sense;
• Provide opportunity for trainees to reflect on their perceptions of the cultural and social mores of the area;
• Provide opportunity for trainees to reflect on their own behavior, appearance and general selfpresentation in the context of their environment;
• Develop increased sensitivity and respect for customs, values and accepted standards of appearance and behavior in the local area.
Overview: This is a session in which time is allotted for giving thought to issues that sometimes get overlooked by trainees. Some of the non technical, but very important, personal characteristics that are so important in being an effective Peace Corps Volunteer can be all but forgotten due to the hectic pace of training, combined with what can become a sense of anonymity or feeling of being invisible due to being part of a large group. In this meeting, trainees are given an opportunity to concentrate on the cultural and social aspects of their surroundings, and are encouraged to examine their own actions, attitudes and manners in regard to those issues.
1. The trainer asks the trainees to take about ten minutes to jot down some responses to the following questions based on their own observations (trainee responses should be as specific as possible):
• What are the major industries in this area? How do most people here make a living? What is the economic base for this area?
• What appears to be the socioeconomic status of most people in this area, and what kind of a range seems to exist?
• What do people in this area enjoy doing for recreation and relaxation?
• What have you noticed about acceptable standards of dress, appearance and behavior for various situations (eating in restaurants, shopping, going to work or school, etc.);
• How do people here generally greet each other?
• What are the most common religions practiced in this area?
• What are some of the public or social issues about which people in this community seem most concerned (education, drugs, unemployment, environmental issues, etc.)?
2. The trainer asks the trainees to volunteer some of their responses to initiate a group discussion. Continue the discussion for about fifteen minutes, allowing trainees to share their observations and interpretations.
3. Tell the trainees that they will be breaking into small groups, and tell them how the groups will be divided (approximately four groups). Tell them that when they get into their groups, they should address the following questions. Two groups should list their responses to the first question on newsprint. The other two groups should list their responses to the second question on newsprint. (All groups should discuss both questions among themselves). The questions are:
• Based upon their observations of and interactions with you, what impression do you think people in this area have of Peace Corps Volunteers, and what would you say is a likely range of assumptions they would make about Peace Corps Volunteers?
• Assuming you now have a somewhat enhanced awareness of the area and of your own actions, what can you do, as individuals and/or as a group, to be sensitive to the local area, integrate smoothly and promote a positive image of yourselves and of Peace Corps?
4. Each group presents its newsprint list. The group discusses each list, sharing and comparing their ideas.
Resources and Materials:
• Newsprint, markers, masking tape.
• This session should be as early in the program as possible, yet far enough into the program for trainees to have had an opportunity to adjust to the program and to the local area;
• Suitable times for this session are either as part of an end of the week meeting on a Saturday afternoon, or as a Monday morning meeting;
• The staff should allow the trainees to take as much control as possible in this meeting. The majority of the conversation should be among the trainees. Staff should be cautious about putting trainees on the defensive by pointing out examples of insensitive or inappropriate behavior that the trainees have exhibited as that would probably result in a counterproductive session. However, if trainees have demonstrated seriously inappropriate actions or behaviors, or if they fail to assess themselves in a balanced way or go into sufficient detail, it may be necessary to bring these up for discussion in a tactful and non-threatening manner.